As the new year rolls in, many nonprofits are embarking on a brand-new budget, with clean slates, fresh aspirations, and strategies poised for success. You may also find your organization with a new class of volunteers on your board of directors, fresh faces on committees and perhaps even new staff members on your team.

Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. What does it look like and feel like to sit across from you at a board meeting? What is crystal clear and what is murky? How could your interaction with these groups be enhanced? How can these eager volunteers become productive and effective members of your team more quickly? Here are three new things to try with your board:

  1. Think about the financial information you provide. Are your internal financial statements prepared on a GAAP basis? Likely not, and since they are internal, they don’t need to be. The most important considerations are consistency and making sure that everyone understands what the accounting basis is. Best practice is to provide a Statement of Financial Position and a Statement of Cash Flows on a regular basis. The Statement of Activities alone is not sufficient to see the whole picture.
  2. Think about how often you use acronyms or other jargon that might leave people confused. This might be as simple as the way you refer to programs, program sites or your corporate office. Or there may be terminology that is inherent in your service space, things are widely used by all zoos, all YMCAs, all feeding programs, etc. Consider taking a step back and be more descriptive. Ask one of your new team members to make a list of the things they do not understand and create a glossary of terms.
  3. Think about the questions that are asked most frequently and the questions that are not asked but should be. This is an opportunity to be proactive and provide information that answers questions before they are even asked while allowing others to feel they are being heard. This can take your team to a significantly higher level of understanding and increase confidence in you as a leader. If you are tracking KPIs or Leading Indicators, consider sharing those with a broader audience. Board members want to know that your team is on top of revenue and expense trends, plus they want to know the progress your making toward your mission and impact goals. So let them know!

Many of these strategies can be integrated into orientation programs you already have for new staff or new volunteers. Others should become a part of your regular meeting presentations. Be confident and transparent. Your organization will be better for it!


As you start a new year, you might have a long list of work resolutions. We’re not here to add to your list, but to give you some ideas on how to make those resolutions a reality. Why not try something new?




Posted by Brian Keel
Brian Keel

Written by Brian Keel

Serving as an adjunct Senior Consultant, Brian brings nearly 25 years of leadership experience gained both in for-profit and non-profit organizations. This background gives him a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities inherent in non-profit financial management. Brian is the Chief Financial Officer at YMCA of the Triangle.

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